You hear a lot about quantum computers. How they’ll be super fast and super powerful. There are even companies claiming to make the first simple versions of quantum computers.

But what makes a computer “quantum?” Here are five things to know about quantum computers.

1. Quantum computers use qubits. While classical computers encode bits as zeros and ones. Qubits can be one, zero or a superposition of both.

2. Because qubits can be in multiple states at once, a quantum computer has inherent paralellism. That means a while your computer can work on one thing at a time, albeit very fast on today’s processors, quantum computers can work on millions of things a at a time.

3. Quantum computers will be best at factoring large numbers, making them super fast at breaking encryption or searching a large database.

4. Quantum computers can read data without looking at it. Measuring a qubit can change its state and affect the outcome. So quantum computers entangle atoms, meaning one atom always reflects the state of another. That way you can know what state the first atom is without measuring it and changing its state.

5. There’s debate about whether we’re really there yet. The uncertainty principle in this case is just how quantum our computers are. Companies like D-Wave use quantum principles in their computing but most agree that practical quantum computers are still years away.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re in a superposition of both understanding and not understanding quantum computers. Well here’s more from TechRepublic to help you out:

SEE: Quantum computing: The smart person’s guide
SEE: D-Wave quantum computers: The smart person’s guide

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